I refuse to feel anything but rage whenever the Knicks lose to the Boston Celtics, whether it be postseason, regular season, preseason or an exhibition to raise money for widows and orphans. I hate the Celtics; I hate the fact that even the MSG announcers do nothing but praise their style of play for 48 minutes; I hate the fact that the announcers are right to do so; I hate ‘80s after-school TV special villain-lookin’ punk, RJ Hunter.
That being said, there were some nice takeaways from Saturday’s 119-107 defeat at the hands of the Green Booger Monsters. Mindaugas Kuzminkas (18 points, 10 rebounds) exploded off the bench after receiving a “DNP-CD” during the previous game. Willy Hernangomez (12 points, 12 rebounds) continued to make his case for the coveted backup center role. Justin Holiday (13 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists) finally broke out of his shooting slump.
Oh, and Joakim Noah played! The big man from Hell’s Kitchen played 20 minutes and looked rather spry doing it.
Joakim Noah on having his hometown announced as 'Hell's Kitchen': "Hell yeah, I asked for that. I’m from Hell’s Kitchen - 51st and 10th."— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) October 16, 2016
His defensive barking is already back to All-Star level, whether it was screaming “HELL NO” whenever a Celtic let go a shot from deep or chastising Sasha Vujacic, “COME ON, SASHA” after he gave up the baseline. His teammates seemed energized by his presence. It was nice — certainly worthy of C S’s punnerific comment.
- Kristaps Porzingis sat out the second half with a sore groin. You bet your ass I blame the Celtics for this.
Jeff Hornacek said he doesn't anticipate Kristaps Porzingis (groin) missing any practice time or Wednesday's game but he isn't sure yet.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) October 16, 2016
- If you added everything up, the Knicks probably played 28 minutes of good defense and 20 minutes of bad defense. But boy did the Celtics capitalize on those stretches of bad D. New York actually held a lead late in the second quarter, but Boston ran off a 14-2 run in just over a minute, raining threes all over the Garden. Still, the effort was (mostly) there, and they finally have a roster of decent athletes. The communication breakdowns which led to most of Boston’s three-pointers will (hopefully) be fixed in time.
- If you held out any hope of Sasha Vujacic getting cut, Saturday’s game probably put an end to that. Vujacic continued his hot shooting and generally ran the offense effectively: 13 points on 5-9 from the field (2-5 from three), 4 assists, 1 turnover, 3 steals. He’s shooting 50% from beyond the arc this preseason. As annoying as he can be to watch, Sasha has put up the numbers. The organization loves him and his teammates love him. He’s staying.
- Ron Baker got to play with the starters in the second quarter, filling the Courtney Lee role at shooting guard, and he was just splendid. All the “He just knows what he’s doing out there” cliches are totally justified. Kid also can’t make a layup to save his life, which makes him a true Knick in my book.
- Saturday turned into The Cheese Game in the second half, as Mindaugas Kuzminkas checked in and immediately got all the buckets. He continued a trend that I saw in the Olympics — for a rail-thin small forward, the kid is constantly on the offensive glass. Some of his team-high 7 offensive boards were him gobbling up his own misses, but I’m pleasantly surprised by his fearlessness on that end. On D, Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown tore through him like tissue paper.
- Is Willy Hernangomez taking the backup center job or is Kyle O’Quinn losing it? Probably a little of both. O’Quinn’s passing — the facet of his game that should theoretically thrive in the Triangle — is stifling the Knicks offense. Dude just holds onto the ball interminably, looking for a highlight pass that never comes. Willy actually passed less on Saturday, resulting in fewer assists (1) but also fewer turnovers (1). And unlike O’Quinn, Billy-Willy knows how to put back an offensive rebound:
- Brutal luck for Chasson Randle, who missed the game with a facial laceration suffered in practice.
- I’m still a believer in Maurice Ndour, who did a good job of running the floor and keeping the ball moving on fast breaks, but he’s been a bit of a disappointment so far in the preseason.
- No playing time for Lou Amundson or Marshall Plumlee. Does that mean anything? Probably not.
We’ll have to wait another three days for more basketball, as the Knicks travel to Boston for the first game of a rare preseason back-to-back. That’s kinda weird. Please heal up, Kristaps’ groin!